LIVE: The Levin Brothers @ The Strand Hudson Falls, 06/19/2022
The Levin Brothers’ core trio consists of Pete Levin – keys, Tony Levin – upright and electric bass, and Jeff Siegel on drums. Interestingly, they “rotate” a 4th member and instrumentalist, to keep their arrangements fresh. Last year it was guitarist Jeff Ciampa. For this 2022 tour, it is flutist Ali Ryerson. Amazingly, Pete Levin announced that this was only the 5th gig with this new line up – amazing given the confident easy interplay between the 4 musicians.
They started with “Out of Darkness”, an original, featuring beautifully echoed electric piano, gently ushering in the rest of the band. Levin (Pete) is a tasteful keyboardist, adept at bright Vince Guaraldi-like solos, but also knowing when to lay back and add textures and colors to cushion his bandmates’ efforts. The rhythm section is outstanding. Tony Levin is, of course, one of the finest bass players out there, capably straddling the worlds of jazz, pop, and rock with apparent ease, having played with just about everyone. Siegel is economical and always in the pocket. Ryerson floats above the sound, trading melody lines with Pete. In fact, there’s no “showboating” here, all of the solos are sharp and to the point, never outstaying their welcome, which can be a problem in this genre.
Another problem with jazz, unfamiliarity with a hard-to-digest chunk of instrumental music, is also solved by the Brothers’ judicious choice of covers. The second song is “Eleanor Rigby”, reimagined as a funky strut, the Beatles titular spinster high steppin’ to the beat on her way to the great beyond. Levin sheepishly apologizes for “riding roughshod” over the song, but it works. And his setlist punningly notes the number as “Eleanor Funkby.”
More covers follow, mixed in with their original material. Of particular note is a gorgeous rendering of Satie’s “First Gymnopedie”, a slinky blues shuffle through Hendrix’s “Up from the Skies” and a strong closing number “Bells” where Levin’s sampled keyboards chime as the band surges effortlessly to a majestic finale.
Maybe it was the 6.00 pm start time. Maybe it was because it was Father’s Day. Maybe it was just a quiet Sunday in Hudson Falls. Whatever the reason for the meager turnout, the Levin Brothers didn’t let it get to them and delivered an exemplary and enjoyable set to those of us lucky enough to be there.
- (Songs by Levin Brothers unless otherwise noted)
- Out of Darkness
- Eleanor Rigby (Lennon, McCartney)
- Up from the Skies (Hendrix)
- First Gymnopedie (Satie)
- Aja (Becker, Fagen)
- Wolfsbane (Lenny White)
- Fade to Blue
- Scarborough Fair (Trad arranged Simon, Garfunkel)
- Gimme some Scratch
- Icarus (Ralph Towner)